Member of the Month: Zach Sartor, MD
Mental health advocate passionate about training family medicine’s next generation
By Samantha White
Zach Sartor, MD, is the Curriculum Director at the Waco Family Medicine residency program. Exposed to the power of family medicine physicians at a young age, he chose primary care early in his clinic years, ultimately deciding to work in academic medicine to help train the specialty’s future workforce. He was also part of the team to create a free resource for clinicians who serve patients seeking mental health treatment. Read more about The Waco Guide in this recent blog post by Dr. Sartor.
Who or what inspired you to become a family physician?
I knew I wanted to be a physician from a very early age. Most Texas communities have a strong family medicine presence, so growing up in Abilene, I was exposed to the power of our specialty routinely. A family medicine physician’s impact in their community is immeasurable, and I wanted to give back in a similarly meaningful way by following this career path.
Can you briefly describe your career path?
I went to Baylor University and then medical school at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine. I was interested in primary care and family medicine early in my clinic years and matched to the residency program at Waco Family Medicine. Along the way, I developed an interest in academic medicine; therefore, I took a position as a faculty member at my residency program in 2019, where I currently serve as the curriculum director.
Why do you choose to be a TAFP member?
Family medicine is invaluable for communities and patients everywhere. We are instruments of change and equity, able to change the trajectories of health and well-being for countless individuals. TAFP advocates for our specialty and ensures we can continue our mission in the most meaningful way possible.
What brings you joy in your work?
I love spending time with patients and enjoy sharing in their successes. Additionally, I also find fulfillment in educating the future family medicine workforce in my current position. The multiplicative effect of educating physicians is deeply powerful. Therefore, I am investing time and energy as curriculum director at Waco Family Medicine to ensure we provide a high standard for family medicine training.
What advice would you give to students and residents?
Students, don’t let anyone deter you from what you want in practice. You deserve your ideal practice, so go and find it. Residents, try and maintain your identity outside of medicine by taking time for yourself. Residency training is a marathon, not a sprint.
Tell us about The Waco Guide and what got you interested in mental/behavioral health.
COVID-19 exacerbated an already severe behavioral health epidemic. Family medicine clinicians are the central point of contact for individuals seeking care for mental illness. Therefore, we have an incredible opportunity to treat behavioral health disorders well and profoundly impact the health of our communities. I am lucky to have strong role models who work in primary care behavioral health. As a result of their influence, I cultivated an interest centered on improving our specialty’s capacity and preparedness to address the behavioral health wave by developing system-level support for clinicians on the front lines.
I joined the Waco Family Medicine team working on The Waco Guide to Psychopharmacology in Primary Care. The Waco Guide consists of decision support tools – generally a combination of algorithms and dosing guides – that assist clinicians in treating mental and behavioral health disorders. Waco Family Medicine faculty developed these tools in consultation with the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy faculty. This resource, available at www.wacoguide.org and as a download for iOS, is free of charge for individuals and health care systems to use.
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
I have two dogs, Jody and Daisy, who take up a lot of my time outside of medicine. I enjoy good coffee, traveling, and disc golf. I am always up for trying new restaurants and food but do enjoy cooking and baking at home.
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by email at email@example.com or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.